• January 27th, 2021

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

    Contacts:

    Landon Newell, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, (801) 428-3991, landon@suwa.org 

    Steve Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, (801) 428-3981, steve@suwa.org 

    Salt Lake City, UT (January 27, 2021) – President Biden today issued an Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, which, among other things, places a pause on oil and gas leasing on federal public lands and commits the United States to a ten-year goal of conserving 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030.

    In response, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance legal director Steve Bloch issued the following statement:

    “We are grateful that President Biden is following through on his commitment to reassert our nation as a climate leader, not a climate denier. 

     “The President’s decision to order a pause on new oil and gas leasing on federal public lands is a common sense and desperately needed step to right the ship and chart a more thoughtful, climate conscious path forward as our nation Builds Back Better. 

     “Over the past four years, the oil and gas industry stockpiled millions of acres of oil and gas leases and drilling permits across the West. In Utah alone, the industry is sitting on more than 1.7 million acres of unused federal oil and gas leases on some of our nation’s wildest and most culturally significant public lands. At the same time, drilling is at a historically low rate. In this landscape, the Biden administration’s pause on new leasing will not impact the oil and gas industry’s bottomline.”

    # # #

    Posted by
  • January 25th, 2021

    Immediate Opening: 1/25/2021

    The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) has an immediate opening for a full-time Wildlands Attorney. Interested applicants should email a cover letter, resume, law school transcript, 3–5-page writing sample, and 3 references to Neal Clark, Wildlands Program Director, at hiring@suwa.org. The deadline to submit your application is February 28, 2021.

    Job Description

    SUWA’s Wildlands Attorney is a non-litigation position with a focus on monitoring Bureau of Land Management activities throughout Utah—including Bears Ears National Monument, the San Rafael Swell, and the West Desert—and challenging project proposals that would adversely impact wilderness-quality lands. The position is unique in that it involves a combination of policy, advocacy, legal research and writing, on-the-ground expertise, relationship building with federal agency staff, and coordination with Tribal and conservation partners. The Wildlands Attorney drafts and submits comments on proposed federal land actions, including site-specific projects and land use planning processes; files administrative appeals, including legal research, briefing, and coordination with expert witnesses; and interacts with federal agency staff, project proponents, scientific experts, state and local elected officials, and Tribal and conservation partners. The Wildlands Attorney is also involved in legislative efforts, strategic organizational decision making, and issue-specific campaigns, working closely with colleagues in SUWA’s Moab, Salt Lake City, and Washington, D.C. offices.

    Responsibilities

    • Track proposed projects on Bureau of Land Management lands throughout Utah. Engage with agency staff, draft comments, and develop strategies in order to modify or challenge projects that would adversely affect wilderness-quality lands.
    • Cultivate expertise on lands proposed for wilderness designation in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act­. Defend these lands through strategic policy and legal actions while advocating for permanent protection as designated wilderness.
    • Develop professional relationships with agency staff through regular communication, meetings, and field tours.
    • Organize field tours with agency staff, Tribal and conservation partners, media, and legislative staff.
    • Represent SUWA in administrative appeals before the Department of Interior Board of Land Appeals. Conduct legal research, document review, and draft legal filings. Negotiate with opposing counsel.
    • Develop media strategies and represent SUWA in the media.
    • Support SUWA’s litigation and legislative efforts through on-the-ground expertise.
    • Assist SUWA’s efforts to organize activists in support of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act and other SUWA campaigns.

    Requirements

    • Demonstrated interest in environmentalism or conservation—passion for wilderness and public lands preferred.
    • Interest in building professional relationships with agency staff, and Tribal and conservation partners—including frequent communications, meetings, and field tours.
    • Willingness to travel throughout Utah one or more times per month for meetings with colleagues, federal agency staff, Tribal and conservation partners, and to conduct fieldwork—including in remote, backcountry locations.
    • Excellent writing, analytical, and legal research skills.
    • Ability to communicate complex issues to the media and public.
    • Good nature, sense of humor, and enthusiasm for working on a team.
    • Initiative, self-direction, attention to detail, and an ability to meet deadlines.
    • Ability to handle a substantial and ever-changing workload that will, at times, require working nights and weekends.
    • High degree of professional integrity, courtesy, and respect.
    • Willingness to make a minimum two-year commitment.

    Education, Experience, and Salary

    • 0-5 years of experience—admitted to practice law in Utah, or willingness to sit for or waive into the Utah State Bar
    • Salary range: $48,000—$70,000 (dependent on experience). SUWA provides vacation, holiday, and sick leave; health insurance; retirement benefits; and disability. Relocation reimbursement provided.

    Location and Start Date

    Moab (preferred) or Salt Lake City. Anticipated start: April 5, 2021
    *Due to COVID-19, relocation date is flexible

    SUWA is committed to workplace diversity and inclusion. SUWA is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate in hiring or employment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, age, disability, veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by federal, state, or local law.


    SUWA is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of the outstanding wilderness at the heart of the Colorado Plateau, and the management of these lands in their natural state for the benefit of all Americans. SUWA promotes local and national recognition of the region’s unique character through research and public education; supports both administrative and legislative initiatives to permanently protect Colorado Plateau wild places within the National Park and National Wilderness Preservation Systems, or by other protective designations where appropriate; builds support for such initiatives on both the local and national level; and provides leadership within the conservation movement through uncompromising advocacy for wilderness preservation.

    Posted by
  • January 25th, 2021

    State of Utah’s sprawling litigation claiming more than 12,000 dirt paths and stream bottoms as “highways” threatens redrock wilderness across the state

    Contacts: Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3981, steve@suwa.org 

    Phil Hanceford, The Wilderness Society, 303.815.3158, phil_hanceford@tws.org

    Brian Fletcher, Stanford Law School Supreme Court Clinic, 917.453.9477, bfletcher@stanford.edu 

    Salt Lake City – Today, the US Supreme Court denied requests by the US Solicitor General and the State of Utah to overturn a 2019 decision that granted two conservation groups, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and The Wilderness Society, the right to intervene in a sweeping series of lawsuits that threatens to riddle the state’s wildest public lands with roads.

    In what are known as petitions for writ of certiorari, the United States and Utah attempted to overturn a decision by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals by contending that the conservation groups’ undeniable interests in southern Utah’s remarkable red rock wilderness were insufficient to permit intervention in the litigation. The Supreme Court denied the petitions in an unsigned order issued this morning.

    “We’re pleased the Supreme Court denied these petitions and look forward to vigorously defending our members’ and the United States’ interests in the wildest, most remote corners of southern Utah,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “The State’s litigation, claiming highways in stream bottoms and cow paths, has always been about who controls federal public lands in Utah, with the goal to riddle these landscapes with roads and make them ineligible for congressional Wilderness designation. This absolutely cuts to the core of our mission.”

    A State of Utah R.S. 2477 claim in the Paria River streambed (Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Paria-Hackberry Wilderness Study Area). Photo © Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    “We are focused on using science and common sense to protect our land, our air, and our water for the health of our communities and for future generations,” said Phil Hanceford, Conservation Director at The Wilderness Society. “Today’s decision not to review our participation in this important case recognized that our input is valuable when decisions are made about the impacts development could have on our shared public lands. There are appropriate places for roads, but cutting through Utah’s spectacular red rock wildlands and creek beds are not those places.”

    The conservation groups had sought to intervene in the litigation to defend the United States’ title in so-called R.S. 2477 rights of way, referring to an obscure provision in the 1866 Mining Act that authorized the construction of highways across the western frontier to support settlement and development. Utah has weaponized this long-repealed law to file more than 20 lawsuits alleging more than 12,000 rights of way totaling more than 32,000 miles across federal public lands in the state. Rather than constitute any kind of a reasonable rural transportation network, the vast majority of these claimed highways are in fact unmaintained dirt two-tracks, cow paths and stream bottoms. Thousands of miles of Utah’s claimed highways are located in national parks, national monuments, designated wilderness areas, and other wild Utah lands.

    Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and The Wilderness Society are represented by Jeffrey Fisher, Brian Fletcher and Pamela Karlan at Stanford Law School’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic; Chad Derum and Trevor Lee at the Salt Lake City law firm Manning Curtis Bradshaw & Bednar; and Stephen Bloch and Michelle White at the Utah-based Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

    Posted by
  • December 22nd, 2020

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contacts:
    Landon Newell, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, (801) 428-3991, landon@suwa.org
    Steve Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, (801) 859-1552, steve@suwa.org
    Anne Hawke, Natural Resources Defense Council, (646) 823-4518, ahawke@nrdc.org
    Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (801) 300-2424, tmckinnon@biologicaldiversity.org
    John Weisheit, Living Rivers, (435)-260-2590, john@livingrivers.org

    Washington, D.C. (December 22, 2020) — A federal judge today enjoined the Trump administration’s approval of a plan to punch a helium well into the heart of the Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness in Utah just two days before Christmas. Road construction had been set to begin Wednesday.

    “Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness is too special to drill,” said Landon Newell, staff attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “We’re grateful the court enjoined this ill-conceived project and gave this incomparable landscape a brief reprieve. We’ll be ready for round 2 with the Trump administration and company in early January.”

    The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Center for Biological Diversity, and Living Rivers sought a temporary restraining order to stop the Bureau of Land Management from granting approval to Twin Bridges to begin drilling the helium well pending the resolution of a lawsuit filed last week. The lawsuit says the Bureau violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing to take a hard look at the potential climate harms from the fracking project and failing to provide a reasoned basis for offering this land for leasing in the first place.

    “The Bureau of Land Management tried to pull a fast one in racing this permit out,” said Josh Axelrod, senior advocate for the Nature Program at NRDC (the Natural Resources Defense Council). “But this unique wilderness area should never have been on the table for development, and we’ll fight to make sure it’s protected.”

    The Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness includes one of the country’s most iconic and world-renowned stretches of river canyon. This national treasure is bounded on the east by the Green River and on the south by Canyonlands National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act of 2019 secured its permanent protection as wilderness. (See photos here.)

    This dangerous drilling would destroy what Congress sought to protect by designating the spectacular Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness,” said Taylor McKinnon, senior campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’re pleased the court stopped this project for now, but we won’t rest until this reckless plan is canceled entirely.” 

    Twin Bridges had planned to break ground on the project Wednesday, but today’s order from U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras enjoins any further action on the plan until at least Jan. 6, pending resolution of the lawsuit.  

    “Today’s order validates the importance of taking the courageous step of protecting the treasured landscapes of Utah’s canyon country,” said John Weisheit, conservation director with Living Rivers & Colorado Riverkeeper. “We appreciate the opportunity that Judge Contreras has afforded us to hear our critical case at the upcoming hearing.” 

    Background

    The Bureau of Land Management formally issued a lease to Twin Bridges Resources, LLC in February 2019, only a few weeks before the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, which created the Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness, became law. The agency rushed to close the deal knowing the area was about to be permanently closed to future leasing and development. The Bureau had been racing ahead to approve the company’s proposal to drill on its federal lease and a nearby state lease just before the Christmas holiday.

    The proposed helium operation will industrialize one of the most remote areas of southeastern Utah’s red rock country. If the plan is approved, Twin Bridges will drill up to seven wells, permanently disturbing 43 acres in this remote and austere landscape and forever diminishing the unique wilderness values found in the area. The project will also involve road grading, construction of three separate pipelines, construction of a 10-acre processing facility and increased vehicle traffic.

    ***

    Plaintiffs SUWA, the Center for Biological Diversity and Living Rivers are represented by Landon Newell, Joseph Bushyhead, and Stephen Bloch with Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and William Eubanks II and Nick Lawton with Eubanks & Associates, PLLC. Plaintiff NRDC is represented by Sharon Buccino with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

    The case is captioned Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance v. Bernhardt, 1:20cv3654 RC (D.D.C.).

    Posted by